India's first Asian Paralympics medallist in cycling, Aditya Mehta left behind the scars of a devastating accident that saw him lose a limb to become one of the top para-athletes in the country.
After losing a leg at 24, Mehta went on to clinch several medals in para-cycling for India by the age of 38, showcasing a will to fight and overcome challenges. But that was not enough for the champion. He has now set out on a campaign to scout and reach out to other differently-abled athletes across the country and help them fulfill their dreams and potential.
He feels India should be achieving much more at the Paralympics and has made it one of his missions to ensure it happens.
“There are about 1500 medals available in the Paralympics. India won four medals in the Rio 2016 Paralympics. But, by 2024, we want to equal the tallies of Chinese and European teams,” he told Times of India.
What is Aditya Mehta's story?
Mehta was a budding entrepreneur based in Hyderabad whose life changed after his return from Hong Kong on August 18, 2017.
Mehta took out his motorcycle for a ride when a bus dragged him for nearly 200 meters. He tried to get his body in between the wheels of the bus on the second attempt but failed to get his leg out of the way.
How did he take to cycling?
Mehta first started swimming after undergoing amputation and joined an academy in Pune. But one day, he ended up asking his cousin to give him a cycle to ride while taking a stroll through a park. Despite his cousin’s misgivings about Mehta riding the cycle with one leg, he went on to do so, falling and rising numerous times. But Mehta says each fall made him stronger.
From there, it took him six years to enter his first race as a cyclist. He went on to become one of the most accomplished para-cyclists in the country and bagged two silver medals at the Para-Asian championship.
He rode from London to Paris and has two Limca book of records entries to his name. He cycled solo from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the length of India, in 2013.
It was in 2013 that he started a foundation to help athletes like him. Mehta claims that the foundation has since helped more than 100 para-athletes and 1000 soldiers from the Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Fast forward to 2020, Mehta and fellow para-cyclists from the BSF amputees’ team are on a 3801 km-long cycling expedition across India. The expedition will cover 35 cities in 41 days. It started from Srinagar on November 19 and will end at Kanyakumari on New Year.
What is the motive behind scouting future paralympians?
Mehta has seen adversities in his life. At the Asian Para-Cycling championships in New Delhi in 2013, Mehta and his teammates failed to perform as they could not find enough funds and support to buy prosthetics and wheelchairs.
At this time Mehta's family came to the fore to aid a few Paralympians with the required equipment. And after that, he took matters to his own hands and decided to raise necessary funds for the paralympians.
Now he aims to raise awareness about Paralympics and reach out to athletes like him.
“We aim to raise awareness and reach out to other differently-abled talents across the country.”